Coach, don’t send me home.”

John Welch Not the most famous coach in the NBA, but he has one of the most impressive resumes since joining 20 years ago, after learning his skills with legendary Jerry Tarkanian at Fresno State. The former member of the Grizzlies (with Hubie Brown and Jerry West), the Nuggets (with George Karl), the Kings (again with Karl) and most recently the Clippers prior to taking up a position in Mexico, is on the Jr. NBA Coaches online this Sunday, April 24. On this occasion, he was kind enough to discuss his career, the evolution of coaching and the NBA in recent years, but also his story with Yvan Fournier in the time of the Nuggets.

Jr. coaches NBA – Online provided by Gatorade® is hosted on OWQLO and offers 12 live virtual sessions from February to September for app users aged 16 or over in France. The next session with former NBA assistant coach John Welch will take place on Sunday, April 24th. For more information, visit owqlo.com, gatorade.com, NBAFRANCE on Facebook and Twitter, and NBAEurope on Instagram.

Basketball: John, played under legendary Jerry Tarkanian at UNLV and then worked as his assistant at Fresno State for 7 years. He’s a big name in global coaching, but he’s less well known with an international audience, what did you learn from him and how much of an impact did he have on the coach you’ve become?
John Welch: I think Jerry Tarkanian is the most underrated coach in history. Defensively, it’s the best I’ve ever had. What I respect most about a great coach is the ability to maintain humility and that’s what he’s been able to achieve. He could be in the middle of a room with six other coaches and ask them questions to keep improving. Some people considered him to be very unintelligent. It’s just the opposite. He was constantly inspired by others and acted as if he was discovering basketball. In 1985, when I was taken there, he was 55 years old. His assistant, one of the most respected coaches at the time, was about the same age and their tandem was the best I had seen. During the time I worked with them, when they were already at a certain age, they constantly developed and advanced. When I got there, I thought UNLV was the best defensive team in the country. They have won a long series of matches. Then I saw them become the best attacker in the country. It shows you that you can progress consistently. At my age, I try to improve and learn new things. This is what I remember most about Jerry Tarkanian.

I’ve been an assistant coach in the NBA for 20 years, so to speak. How important is this role to you in the league and is it an undervalued position?
At the time, I was the fourth assistant in Memphis, with Hobby Brown as coach. There were four assistants. Today, when you look, there are 12 assistants and development specialists…everyone has become a specialist which is unbelievable. I was reading an article recently where KD was talking about the development of the game and the fact that two of his assistants on his team were only responsible for setting up the offensive blueprints. There are defensive coordinators. At clippers, it was like that. It is very valuable to have such a deep and competent team. The best teams, in Miami, Golden State, or anywhere else, because they made their players better thanks to their staff. It’s also their staff who help them identify the players in the draft. It is often said that there is no real coaching in the NBA. But there are still quite a few. It’s one-on-one, technical or video training, but it’s training nonetheless.

Today’s NBA stars undoubtedly benefit from this focus on training and development.
The stars of this generation love basketball and enjoy working on their art. The time Kevin Durant, Giannis Antikonmo, and the others spend improving themselves is unbelievable. Luka Doncic is the same, you can feel the emotion in him. The work they do allows them to adapt and respond to matching situations. Chris Paul continues to age as he works and so do other players of his generation. The work ethic of LeBron and others is insane, even if they make use of the best means at their disposal. People don’t realize the time it takes for these players to cherish their bodies and artistic arsenal. The NBA and its fans are lucky to have actors like Stephen Curry, Nikola Jokic and others. It’s amazing what they can do.

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In 2013, I was part of the crew of Jason Kidd, who had just retired and was named head coach of the Nets, with a workforce that includes big names like Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams or Joe Johnson. How did you take on this task to help a novice coach, even a future Hall of Fame member, deal with this very special situation?
I really had a lot of fun that year. I love Jason. He already had a great sense of the game and knew how the players felt too. This is his strength even today. It senses when players are doing well or not. He also knows how to read the game, three actions in advance, and adapt accordingly. Ty Lue does the same. These are the guys who have a high IQ in basketball and the players get to know themselves.

You had Evan Fournier in Denver, when he was just getting into the NBA. What is your memory of him?
After signing it, we planned to take it back to France. He came to me begging, ‘Coach, don’t send me home. I can’t get to the same things in France, and I won’t be able to get better. Let me stay here and work the hall. So we gathered about him and I asked him to stay with us. I’ll take care of it and make it work. Evan was present all the time and before each match he had 100 shots from 3 points. It didn’t stop working. He was looking for the slightest opportunity to train and take shots. When you really look for opportunities, you find them. I love Evan. I also had a Yakhouba Diawara in Denver, and traveled to France to work with him. Jerome Musso, too. We worked together in Los Angeles. Jerome was very talented… There is one thing that cannot be learned, and that is the physical effect. With all the talents he already had, I tried to help him be more physical, love contact and become more brutal. He didn’t have the profession he could have had. But I always say that if you don’t have the job that you could have had because you’re so cute, that’s okay. He’s a good reason and he’s an amazing person.

In terms of transportation and delivery to the young coaches, you are in a good position because your son Riley is a graduate assistant in Kentucky. How has your relationship gone since he took this road?
I’m training in Mexico now and he’s my video coordinator. To tell the truth, I’m the one to ask him for advice. We talk a lot and it reassures me a lot when we lose some matches. It is no longer uncommon to see a father and son train together or at least for the son to follow the same path. Riley is lucky to be on the coaching staff like John Calipari. Learning from him is valuable. The team is exposed and publicized and I am very happy that he can live this experience. There he helps in the development of the players. College basketball has also changed my time. Kentucky players live a few meters from the hall and spend their time at work. There, they are placed in the best conditions for advancement. We tend to get closer to the NBA with specialized and individual coaching.

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More and more European and foreign players are heading straight to the NBA, with others preferring to establish their domains in Europe. What is the best way to prepare for survival in the NBA today?
Either way can be good. Take Luka Doncic. It is clear that he is ready to play directly in the NBA without staying longer in Europe. But overall, I think it’s good to stay outside and move on. You advance above all else through play. People don’t know some things. When a player comes into the NBA, he knows he might not be playing much. But what he doesn’t know is that he won’t have much of a chance to train either. If you are the 12th, 13th, or 14th man on the team, you won’t even participate in five vs five training and don’t take advantage of any repetitions of play to progress. Don’t play in matches, how do you want to progress? You have the right to bring to the attention of the people responsible for developing the players who will be playing with you before or shortly after the games, but you are not facing real NBA players! Playing at a high level in Europe is a better option.

Analytics plays an important role in the way teams train and coach. What importance do you attach to it and what seems to you the most interesting to exploit?
There is a lot of information in the NBA today…I always try to find what is relevant and applicable. Numbers are numbers. When you take on a team, you know exactly what they represent in terms of preferences and skill to paint, half range and triple visions, but also the number of points per possession. Two things lead to more points per possession. The old-fashioned way, it was a side-to-side reversal of passes and double passes. Today, the shots with the highest success rate are those made with a maximum of 5 passes, but this remains an irregular calculation. The best way to score is to take high-ratio shots. You have to look for passes and kicks in the corner. The midrange is not very effective. In the past 20 years, only five players have shot at 50% of the midrange. When you have an exceptional element on your team, like Chris Paul or Kevin Durant, you can change the situation. But if you don’t have that player, you have to shoot for those shots. The past ten years have shown this trend. Targeting the paint is also essential. Whether in drives or looking to hit a player when picking and rolling. It is proven that when the ball does not pass through the racket at some point in the traffic, the success rate is lower. The peripheral ball movement that was prevalent at the time did not have very positive effects in the NBA today. You have to attack or pass through the racket to find and exploit the weak side of the opposing team. It is very difficult to know when you are trying to shoot and when the ball will fall to the weak side. Mastering how coaches try to pass it on to today’s players is complicated.

What do programs like Jr NBA Coaches Online do?
In order for the game and the players to progress, the coaches have to get better. In that sense, having programs like Jr NBA Coaches Online that I participate in is very valuable. Today, everything is available to coaches or those who want to become one. If you want to get better, the information is there. All the ways of playing and the way the future coach wants to marry her are available online. We didn’t have that at the time. Only copious books that had to be swallowed or cassette tapes. One had to follow the guide’s train of thought. There, you can look at Jerry Tarkanian’s methods, Tom Izu’s systems with Michigan State, Jay Wright’s systems with Villanova, etc… I try first to make those who will follow the program understand that we can’t be good at what you do only if you like it And dedicate yourself completely to it. It is a basic foundation.

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